What Texas needs right now is leadership on all levels that can give us clear, concise plans for dealing with public health and the economy.
We are not seeing that plan.
There should have been no reason the decision to close Galveston beaches was made only two days before the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend — no good reason at all.
Independence Day has been a federal holiday since 1941, so it didn’t creep up on us.
Since Memorial Day, the number of coronavirus cases rose dramatically. No surprise there. Virtually every expert warned, and most people knew, that once people started mingling, the number of cases would rise.
Local and state officials had time to openly discuss whether they ought to close the beaches, yet they played it all extremely close to the vest and left many people in a lurch.
Closing the beaches was a reasonable precaution. Waiting so long, though, was unfair to Galveston businesses and vacationers who had made plans to visit the island and Bolivar Peninsula over the weekend.
Likewise, when Gov. Greg Abbott decided to close bars and taverns last month, he threw more than 750,000 people out of work with only a few hours notice. The timing of his decision could be seen by some as cold-hearted.
In a town hall meeting last week, Abbott left the possibility that schools would not open for classroom instruction this fall.
“We want to start schools on time as scheduled,” Abbott said. “If we continue to see COVID spreading the way that it is right now, it may be necessary to employ that flexibility and use online learning.”
Again, the problem is that school districts, such as Texas City, will start their academic years in five weeks. Teachers need time to come up with a plan of instruction and the method of how it will be delivered, whether it will be in class, online or a combination.
But the school districts cannot help their teachers come up with those plans without clear direction from the state.
Clear direction, though, has not been there. The Texas Education Agency and the University Interscholastic League, which sets the standards for competition between schools, have yet to set up guidelines.
With pomp and ceremony, state and local officials have unveiled plans to reopen the economy. Where they failed was by not giving much thought to how to curtail or shut down the economy. Or they have done a poor job of communication with business owners, their employees, parents and students.
In absence of guidelines, we have a few suggestions.
• Set thresholds. If a certain percentage of people who were tested are positive for the coronavirus, the following actions will be taken: Bars, gyms, beaches and similar places will be closed. And state and local officials should post those numbers daily. By doing so, local business owners can have a measuring stick to anticipate what might be coming down the road instead of being surprised to learn that in hours or a few days their businesses will be severely affected.
• Decide sooner rather than later whether schools would have online or in-class instruction.
• Delay high school sports for at least a month. Let educators see what is happening on their campuses before they invite interaction with other campuses.
• Shut down college campuses for the fall semester and utilize online learning. Likewise, close fraternity and sorority houses. If Abbott thinks bars were responsible for the rise in COVID-19 cases among young people, just watch what will happen when dorms reopen.
Those are just a few suggestions, mainly as public talking points to provide a clear and open discussion about how to get ahead of the pandemic, which clearly is going to be with us for many months or even years.
From what we are seeing, though, state and local officials are reacting to the latest wave of the pandemic. They are not getting ahead of the pandemic.
It seems they are trying to catch the pandemic by the tail instead of grabbing it by the horns and wrestling it to the ground.
• Dave Mathews